Darwin and Malthus - Comparison and Contrast
Much of our current understanding about the existence of the large variety of living things around the world is based upon Charles Darwin's groundbreaking novel, On the Origin of Species. However, matching Darwin's theory of natural selection and evolution is how Darwin himself was able to utilize information from a previous source in order to formulate his idea. Like most great works, a prior influence is always present. In Darwin's case, it was the influence of Thomas Robert Malthus, who was a late eighteenth century economist, and ironically, a clergyman in the Church of England.
Though Darwin was influenced by many different writers and philosophers of the time, one of his main influences was Thomas Malthus. In 1798, Malthus published "Essay on the Principle of Population," of which Darwin was an immense fan. The main theme of that essay was that there would never be a balance between food supply and population. Population on the earth would always outgrow the amount of food that was available, thus leading to a eternal state of starvation, poverty, and war in some parts of the world, as countries attempt to fight over the access to the food supply.
This eternal struggle in terms of being able to survive is what interested Darwin. He began to work towards elaborating on the principles that Malthus discussed in order to apply it to the actual evolution of species. Survival of the fittest was developed by Darwin out of the idea that Malthus's perpetual struggle would mean that some would be better able to survive than others. Malthus was mainly talking about larger macro groups, not micro groups in terms of Darwin's interest in genetic makeup. The ongoing survival between those that could not survive and those that could would produce major changes in the genetic makeup of the species, as it was evolution occurring through the process of natural selection. As Darwin writes in the excerpt from...
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